Back from Botswana: Adam Smith and Dr Nicole White
Back from Botswana: Adam Smith and Dr Nicole White

On course with nature priority

TWO local wetland scientists have recently visited Botswana, Africa, to deliver presentations relating to the Clarence Valley.

Dr Nicole White from Clarence Valley Council and Adam Smith from the University of New England attended the Flood-Pulsed Wetlands International Symposium in Maun, at the edge of the world’s largest inland delta, the Okavango.

The conference hosted 200 delegates from 29 countries and included Nicole and Adam’s presentations on their PhD research projects and the Clarence Floodplain Project. The presentations included a study on water birds and wetland hydrology on the Clarence floodplain. Nicole presented her research on hydrology and water quality of the Little Broadwater at Lawrence, as well as a presentation on how the Clarence Floodplain Project strives to maintain livelihoods while restoring wetlands and watercourses.

“Almost half the presentations were about the Okavango Delta with scientists, managers, politicians and local landholders talking about different aspects of the same subject,” Adam said.

“It is a familiar story from there and from all over the world.

“Landholders are trying to make a living from the places in which they live. Scientists are researching to provide information to managers to make better decisions about the environment, and politicians are dealing with their economy in a constantly-changing world while trying to deliver better outcomes for the whole country.

“In Botswana there are rapidly growing mining and tourist industries, while traditional farming, grazing and fishing practices are under pressure to change.

“The human population is increasing rapidly and is very young.

“The same can be said for the elephant population. At over 150,000, it is the biggest and fastest growing in Africa,” he said.

“The Okavango has been little impacted up until now but with all these pressures, projects similar to the Clarence Floodplain Project will be required there, but of course on a much bigger scale”.

Nicole said Okavango was fascinating to visit and would be an interesting place to work.

“It would be an amazing place to conduct research and implement scientific and social services,” she said.

“However, it’s not a place for the faint-hearted. First you need to guard against malaria, and then you need to be always wary of the large wildlife. While in the wetlands, hippopotamus and crocodiles are a constant threat to safety, and on the dry areas, elephants, hyenas and lions are serious concerns.”

Clarence Mayor Richie Williamson said council was proud to be associated with researchers of this calibre.

“It’s vital that council incorporates the latest science into our understanding of natural resource management of the floodplain,” he said.

“We are doing this through current research partnerships with the University of New England, DECCW, NRCMA and the CSIRO,” he said.

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